Sydney’s experiencing a boom in French-Japanese fusion restaurant openings, and now it’s hit the north side with Charlotte Bar and Bistro opening in McMahons Point this October.
Housed in a heritage-listed building over two stories, the restaurant is headed by Japanese hospitality group Azabu and in the kitchen, led by Chef Hiroshi Manaka who has trained and worked in European Michelin-starred restaurants, including Agape, Substance, La Bigarrade, Villa Crespi and Da Vittorio.
“I wanted to bring this invaluable experience that I had accumulated and share it in Sydney by offering a dining experience that pays homage to the artistry and elegance of French gastronomy,” says Manaka.
“We wanted to bring back some of the old French classics onto the scene, from starters all the way to desserts — there’s a nostalgic bite in each.”
The resulting menu includes dishes like roulé de poisson sauce bonne-femme, risotto d’anguille au comté and boeuf en-croûte. Some, like the tartare de poisson épicé en taco, which translates to spicy nori taco seafood tartare, are French, but with a Japanese twist. Others have an Australian twist.
Manaka says he found putting his own spin on the French dish favourites very rewarding, as it makes them not only tastier, but also accessible to a wider audience. He continually works with local producers to trial different ingredients and create inventive dishes like his favourite on the menu, chicken ribs, served with garlic, parsley, butter and lemon.
“This creation was inspired by the traditional frog’s legs dish,” he says. “Since frogs are not readily available in Australia, nor is it a familiar cuisine for many, we decided to reinvent the experience using chicken ribs instead. These juicy ribs boast very similar texture to frog’s legs and are accompanied by the same delicious sauce.”
Manaka suggests you arrive around 6:30pm and start with a glass of Grower Champagne at the bar before settling into a cosy booth overlooking the restaurant’s terrace for dinner. The terrace is French Riveria-inspired with pops of greenery and sundrenched during the day.
The menu is designed to be shared, he says, and groups shouldn’t go past the gyoza d’escargot au vin rouge and beef tartare to start. For a share main, go with the boeuf en-croûte and some classic tarte aux pommes. Pair your dishes with a French whisky or French eaux-de vies.
Charlotte seats up to 120 guests in its indoor space and terrace. It also has three private dining rooms for intimate dining, The Nocturne, The Lumiere and The Function Room. Charlotte is Azabu’s fifth venue within three years, joining Choji Yakiniku, Hanasuki, Chef’s Table and Kame House.
“In the coming year, we are excited to announce plans to unveil multiple other new venues,” says Cindy Tseng, Azabu Group’s brand manager Cindy Tseng.